July 14, 2024

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Remember to Explore

Travel: A fresh start for eco-tourism? | Travel

Travel changes us like nothing else. Is safe to travel in 2022? The answer is a resounding yes.

The pandemic decimated an $8 trillion industry overnight. If there is a silver lining, it is that travelers have learned how to be more ethical and sustainable.

Some proponents of sustainable travel insist that COVID-19’s global shutdown gave destinations an opportunity to rest and rebuild travel with an emphasis on social responsibility. Cities like Venice and Barcelona, poster children for overcrowded tourism, were able to take a break. Delhi, Shanghai and Los Angeles, all cities with notoriously bad air quality, reported the lowest pollution rates in many years.

Due to the pandemic, we’ve been given the rare chance of a calculated fresh start. These companies aim to make us better global citizens by changing the way we travel — away from mass-market tourism, toward being ethical and sustainable travelers. More people are now aware of leaving a smaller carbon footprint on our fragile planet. 

As people become more environmentally conscious and the world veers toward a sustainable future, the tourism industry is changing how people travel responsibly, leaving behind a lesser carbon footprint while providing ethical animal tourism.

Here’s a look at how some travel companies are moving forward:

Australia-based Aurora Expeditions traverses remote and breathtaking coastlines around the world. It selects each destination, including rarely seen stretches of Antarctica, for íts natural beauty and biodiversity, its geological wonders and archaeological sites. Now the company is incorporating Citizen Science into its itineraries. Travelers are asked to assist in collecting and analyzing data in an array of projects as part of a collaborative project with professional scientists worldwide. Explorers learn the importance of environmental conservation and wildlife protection across all continents.

“Our goal is literally to inspire a network of hope — one place, one community, one vision at a time, around the world,” said oceanographer Sylvia Earle, who partners with Aurora.

Abercrombie & Kent pioneered the luxury adventure travel market nearly six decades ago. Sustainable and ethical travel might be new buzzwords, but for A&K, the concept has been its driving force since it began in East Africa in the early 1960s.

“Thankfully, the concept of responsible tourism is catching on,” said chairman and CEO Geoffrey Kent. “Notions of sustainability, carbon neutrality, animal welfare and cultural sensitivity haven’t always been in sync with the travel industry. Increasingly we find our customers are asking us to book hotels with eco-friendly practices, support the local communities they’re visiting, and find carbon-neutral ways of making the journey.”

The largest adventure travel operator in the world is Melbourne-based Intrepid Travel, which provides travelers a rare opportunity to connect with local people and make a positive impact.

“We fundamentally believe that the travel industry can only rebound stronger if it rebuilds more responsibly,” said CEO James Thornton. “The COVID-19 crisis has brought our sector to a crashing halt, and we would be remiss not to let it be for something good.”

When joining an expedition, ask what safety measures and protocols are in place, and don’t be afraid to question them. Travelers as well as operators play a vital role in responsible travel to ensure the well-being of people and the open spaces they visit. Travelers can take personal responsibility by following health and safety protocols and reading ahead on conditions in countries and regions they’ll be visiting.

The rise of the conscious traveler is in full force. Global explorers will be far more discerning of where and how they travel. Those able to work remotely will travel for longer, opting to “work from holiday.”

Destinations with large open spaces like Alaska, Canada and Australia will remain atop travelers’ radar. Trekking in Nepal, snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands, Costa Rica, African safaris and wellness trips will be increasingly popular. Travelers will turn to operators who guide responsibly and tread lightly.

Nicholas Kontis is a travel writer who divides his time between Napa and Mexico, when he is not exploring the world.